Missing Link: The end of the world was already there – SF can predict more than the future

In spring 2020, when the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic hadn’t told anyone that it didn’t want to stop at all, I told a journalist colleague about a science fiction stage project that I was working on at the time. This long-faced project is now sitting on an even longer bench, alongside a thousand other projects. At that time, however, I was faced with the question of how one actually tells of a completely transformed life. The central dramaturgical idea consisted of a mixture of scenes from the transformed world on the one hand with brief flashback moments on the other. A catastrophic event that had caused the transformation of life was supposed to be recognizable in outline.

What is missing: In the rapid world of technology, there is often the time to rearrange the many news and backgrounds. At the weekend we want to take it, follow the side paths away from the current, try different perspectives and make nuances audible.

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Dietmar Dath, writer (including “The Abolition of Species”, 2008, “Neptunation”, 2019), film critic and editor at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is also the author of the almost thousand-page historical and theoretical study of science fiction “Never history. Science fiction as an art and thinking machine “(2019).

The colleague found that appealing: “It sounds like the opposite of what we do in journalism – you don’t take on a thousand little pieces of news, a virus in China, a democracy crisis in America, economic supply chains all over the world, and you try it To recognize a meaning or a pattern or a trend in the course of the reporting, but conversely you have a single, big, bright idea, maybe: The WWW collapses, or: A meteorite hits. And then you picture the consequences. ”I couldn’t quite confirm that:“ That’s how it was in science fiction and in its earlier forms, say, in the late 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century. One takes the huge idea along which one extends world history into speculation, i.e. aliens or new weapons, as the nucleus and crystal of the story, in the firm trust that life, if it contains such sensations that change everything, can be told at all.

John Clute, one of the best science fiction connoisseurs, historians and critics of the genre, likes to call this process ‘first SF’. But now science fiction is more about the problem of whether this is even possible, whether the transformations we experience still fit into stories. William Gibson, the man who invented the word ‘cyberspace’, for example, writes in his novel ‘Peripheral’ of a future that he does not separate from our present with a single, large, clear incision – he says there was the ‘jackpot’, a kind of crack in the history of civilization, but this big crash was not a comet impact, nothing that could really be called a nuclear war, but a lot of totally different stuff, more or less directly related to the large-scale change of the earthly Biosphere was related: drought, water scarcity, crop failures, bee deaths, breakdown of other key species, antibiotics even more ineffective than they are now, and diseases that were never a major pandemic, but widespread enough to have historical consequences.

Today, SF no longer simply spins out ideas for which there is no other rule than ‘one cause, many effects’, but rather has to work hard to pinpoint causes and effects in the tangle of options to interpret the world Colleague paused: “But SF still predicts the future, doesn’t it?”

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